Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blowing up a symbol – act of defiance or desperation?

There are two articles about the destruction of the Al Nuri Mosque in Mosul. The NY Times calls it “Another Loss for Mosul” (see:, which is a photo source) and Task & Purpose, one of my favorite military sources, calls it “ISIS Just Rage – Quit The Siege of Mosul ….” (see:, which is also a photo source.)

Both articles agree that the Mosque was a center of gravity the center of the purported Daesh Caliphate.The Times provides a lot of information about the history and influence of the Mosque over time.

Task & Purpose goes into more detail from a tactical perspective and addresses the ISIS claim that the mosque was destroyed by an allied airstrike.

From my perspective, Symbolism and PSYOP are not lost on ISIS. Time and again they have proven that they understand the influence game. By blowing up the Mosque they deny the probable victors endless influence opportunities.

The Mosque has been prominent in Mosul for centuries and it is a revered and recognizable symbol. While in ISIS hands it served them well as a showcase while it was in their hands.

The destruction of the Mosque is another example of how ISIS routinely ignores rules of any kind, whether religious or secular or humanity, to further their own cause. Their track record of destroying religious artifacts is well known with the Mosque being only the latest example.

Even when people see through the shallow ISIS claim that the Mosque was destroyed by an air strike is proven false; the victors will not be able to use the ancient Mosque as a platform to proclaim their victory and the righteousness of their cause.

While I’m an Influence Operations kind of guy, there is another perspective and that is “To Counter ISIS, You Must Embrace Violence” (see:, also a photo source.) I’ll save violence as a PSYAct for another day

Monday, June 12, 2017

Turning Propaganda Into News

Recently I’ve focused on Twitter and how it can be used to ‘game’ the media. On June 8, 2007 the NY Times ran an article “How Russian Propaganda Spread From a Parrody Website to Fox News (see:, which is also the photo source). The block diagram below depicts the steps this fake news story followed from its inception to its legitimization by Fox News.

As a practical matter, there could have also been an another feeder stop along with the FaceBook box and that of course would be fake Twitter feeds as a means to jump start Tweets and re-tweets by legitimate and illegitimate sources. The combined velocity of social media ‘consciousness’ would add credence and value to the story. The article also references an earlier article from January 25, 2017, In Race Against Fake News, Google and FaceBook stroll to the starting line (see:

The deluge of criticism pushed FaceBook into increasing its efforts to block fake news. You can check out an earlier story from May 17, 2017 on this effort by USA Today, “Facebook takes a new crack at halting fake news and clickbait” (see:

While one must applaud FaceBook for its efforts, the cynics among us (including me) believe that,  propaganda (fake news by another name) creators will employ other, more creative means to accomplish their tasks. The will be aided and abetted by a vast array of clueless people on social media as well as their own people and nefarious automated tools.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Twitter Is A Game With Real Consequences

I’m not much of games player, but I decided to play one today. I decided to follow @POTUS. I mean after all, how often is it that you can get statements right from the Horse’s Mouth.

The President has often been criticized for this Tweet from the Hip style. I dare say that it was that style that helped get him the White House in the first place. Does President Trump know how to play the Twitter game? It would seem so. (Photo Source:

Others, like the media, perhaps, not nearly as good as understand the Twitter Game.

On May 23, 2017 the NY Times published an article entitled “How Twitter is Being Gamed to Feed Misinformation” (see:; which is also a photo source). 

My own career has been intertwined with the media as well. I wrote articles for a variety of publications, published a couple of newsletters, and continue to write this Blog after almost 10 years.

I’ve also been someone who has worked with the international media in government, commercial and non-profit roles.

I’m learning that Twitter is not a purveyor of truth, but more of a conduit for thoughts emotions and messages. Tweeting is an accepted form of journalism and Tweets themselves are sources for journalists.

As the article notes the 140 character format is a godsend for journalists and others looking for short, pithy quotes that make their job easier. Unfortunately it doesn’t make the journalist more accurate, it just rewards laziness.

Twitter can also be the voice of the herd. Public interest and concern about national disasters can be gleaned from the type and velocity of Tweets about it. Traffic peaks and ebbs, reflecting the cumulative perspective of the herd.

Twitter is a notoriously unreliable source whose constituency includes  unreal people and groups and whose platform allows small groups to act and influence as big ones.

People and robotic re-Tweeting can add gasoline to the fire as noted in the article.

Given its importance perhaps those charged with implementing MISO should have a proficiency test as they do with their personal weapons.
Reader input invited.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Is it time to retire Loud Speakers in Favor of LRAD?

Frankly I didn’t know what a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) was until I saw an article in the June 1, 2017 printed edition of the NY Times which you can find on-line at:, (which is also a photo source).

The article addressed a law suit filed as a result of LRAD use on December 5, 2014 at a protest in Midtown Manhattan against a grand jury’s failure to indict a police officer whose choke hold killed Eric Garner. Among other capabilities, the LRAD can inflict permanent hearing damage although the article notes that the LRAD was designed to repel boarders after the attack on the USS Cole.

Compared to a noise flame thrower, the LRAD offers a number of other capabilities as explained on the vendor website:, which is another photo source.

The vendor shows variants of the LRAD that can provide Mass Notification or Public Address capabilities as well as integrate with existing communication systems. There is also the capability of employing the devices remotely.
If one burrows down a bit in LRAD Corp’s website, under the Investor tab, you will find a Corporate Presentation. Slide 12 which appears here gives the company’s position with in the defense industry. It would seem that the HA & DR application would be a MISO/PSYOP mission while Large Crowd Communications might be a Military Police or MISO/PSYOP mission.

As with many of today’s defense systems, the LRAD is complex, yet modular. Thus far the LRAD appears to be vehicle mounted and does not seem to be available in a Man Pack configuration at this time.

Given the range of capabilities, operators will need to undergo some very solid training on ROE and the legal aspects of LRAD use. While permanent hearing damage has been noted as a potential outcome, the lethality of this weapon has not been tested.

For example, if the LRAD is ‘fired’ at a moving vehicle disrupting the operation and causing a death – does his move LRAD into the lethal force domain or not.  

Reader input appreciated.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Your BFF is a Cossack!

Magazine via an article passed to me by a colleague, the Russians are employing electronic; which is also the photo source.

surrogates across Social Media as a means of waging war. (See:

One of the interesting aspects of the campaign described in the article is the combined use of people and automation to accelerate the pace of the social media battle. The deft use of algorithms to determine targets and key targeting hot buttons helps to add focus and impetus to the efforts.

Custom tailored messages can be sent by a combination of people and bots in a cleverly orchestrated campaign to alter behavior and opinions. The old saying ‘no none knows you’re a dog on the internet’ should be taken a step further. No one knows who you really are or who you can be on Social Media would be more accurate.

Just as an individual can take on fictional characteristics in a virtual reality game, it has become quite easy to develop a fake Social Media persona and exploit that persona as needed.

Each piece of propaganda in Social Media is a seed. The seeds are fed and nurtured until, much like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors – they are not only out on their own, but possibly more powerful than those who helped create them in the first place (Photo source for Audrey 2: